Ohio DO Testifies at Statehouse Committee

Voices Support for New Initiative to Prevent Opioid Abuse

(October 8, 2015) OOA Member Elizabeth B. Lottes, DO, of Columbus, testified, October 7, before an Ohio House of Representatives committee considering legislation to require health insurance companies to cover the cost of opioid pain medications formulated with abuse deterrent properties. The abuse-deterrent properties make the pills impossible to break or crush — a popular way addicts ingest the drugs.

Lottes, who works in Addiction Medicine, leads several addition recovery programs and conducts research and clinical trials. In addition to her clinical responsibilities at Maryhaven, an integrated behavioral health care provider with a specialization in addiction recovery care, she also works with a local hospice organization. Lottes voiced support for the bill, saying "It's time this technology was put into action to save lives."

She told the Health & Aging Committee the majority of her patients are heroin addicts who began by misusing prescription opiates and explained how abuse deterrent properties make a pain pill harder to crush or melt and therefore harder to abuse. "While addicts could take a significant number of pills orally to attempt to get a high, they often crush them to be snorted or injected because they need a more intense hit of the medicine," she said. Lottes said about one-third of addicts started with a valid prescription and the rest either stole or received opiate prescriptions from a friend of family member.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 70 percent of medications that are abused are stolen, given away or somehow diverted from the patient who actually needs the prescriptions for a medical reason.

The legislation, HB 248, is sponsored by Reps. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) and Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). At a press conference announcing the bill Sprague said, "According to the most recent state statistics, there were 2,110 overdose deaths in 2013. Despite the best efforts of our behavioral health community and our law enforcement, the numbers just keep rising. By making tamper-resistant pain drugs more widely available, we can begin to turn that around." Antonio noted the cost-savings for insurers. "People who abuse prescription pain pills are more likely to end up in the hospital and more likely to need outpatient treatment," she said. "If we can prevent abuse, prevent an overdose, we can save those costs. So HB 248 is a good financial strategy as well as being a way to help save lives and keep families from suffering the consequences of drug abuse." The cost of staying in residential treatment for a drug addiction is about $1,000 a day.

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